The 14th Nutrition Forum of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) was held in Lomé (Togo) from November 16th to 18th, 2015. The theme was “Nutrition and SDGs in ECOWAS member countries: progress, challenges and perspectives”. I made a presentation on the Global Nutrition Report 2015 as a member of the GNR Independent Expert Group (IEG).
My presentation emphasised progress on nutrition by ECOWAS countries, challenges and the way forward. As the Report shows, there are some notable improvements in the nutrition situation of the 15 ECOWAS countries but much effort is still needed to accelerate progress towards the World Health Assembly (WHA) nutrition targets for 2025.
The presentation called on ECOWAS countries and regional organisations as well as other nutrition stakeholders in the West African Region (technical and financial partners, private enterprises, etc.) to make public pledges in favour of nutrition (e.g. report on N4G commitments before the 2016 N4G Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and stressed the need for SMART* commitments. The need for countries and donors to allocate more financial resources to nutrition specific and sensitive interventions was also highlighted, as well as the need to fill the data gaps to inform nutrition-related indicators (9–41% of indicators presented in the nutrition profiles of ECOWAS countries are missing in the 2015 GNR). Other calls for action were about: lobbying for additional funds for nutrition activities, particularly from actors other than the classical donors ( such as private enterprises); promoting a more enabling environment for nutrition, e.g. in the domains of law, multi-sectoral coordination and investments; promoting safer food environments; associating with specialists from other sectors, such as climate change, in fighting malnutrition; and enhancing accountability by putting in place appropriate legal mechanisms to monitor actions and commitments made by various nutrition stakeholders (countries, communities, donors, etc).
So from these recommendations based on the 2015 GNR, which ones show through the ECOWAS Nutrition Forum’s final recommendations?
For Technical and financial partners including the West African Health Organization (WAHO) which co-organises the Forum with the host country:
- Lobby for placing nutrition at the highest possible decision-making level in countries for optimal efficacy of nutrition actions;
- support countries in improving the availability and quality of nutrition data, and
- increase their financial allocations to the nutrition sector.
- Include nutrition indicators in national health information systems to facilitate data collection on these indicators and fill the data gaps;
- place nutrition at the highest possible decision-making level and operationalise/improve existing multisectoral platforms for nutrition;
- increase domestic allocations for nutrition-related activities;
- promote accountability in the design, planning, monitoring and evaluation of nutrition programmes/interventions.
For all actors (countries and financial and technical partners)
Put in place coherent coordination mechanisms of nutrition initiatives if these don’t exist in the country (e.g. SUN, REACH, AGIR, ZERO HUNGER).
The Forum has been a great opportunity to introduce the 2015 GNR to the West Africa nutrition community and for countries and organisations represented to share views on how to accelerate progress in reducing under- and over- nutrition in the ECOWAS region. To see whether or not the final recommendations will be translated in concrete actions and monitored, stay tuned… A West African launch of the Report is scheduled in 2016 in Dakar, Senegal.
* SMART: Specific – Measurable – Attainable – Realistic – Time-bound